Srinagar, May 30: Wednesday ended as a historic day for Kashmir football fans as Real Kashmir FC beat Hindustan FC 3-2 to become the first club from the valley to secure its berth in the coveted I-League next season.
The grand finale in Bangalore saw RKFC’s Ifham Tariq Mir (22’), Danish Farooq (40’) and Nadong Bhutia (67’) scoring a goal each and thus sealing the historic win for David Robertson’s side that has now come a long way in just a span of few years since its inception.
Real Kashmir just needed a draw on Wednesday to book their place in the I-League. Hindustan, on the other hand, had to win this tie in order to win the championship. Thus, quite expectedly, the Delhi club was in control of the game right from the beginning. Real Kashmir focused more on sitting back and depend on quick counter-attacks.
It was Real Kashmir who broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute. Kouassi Yao sent a square pass inside the box from the right flank which was received by Danish Farooq. He calmly received it and fed the ball to Tariq who found the back of the net.
A goalkeeping howler from Kashmir’s Mithun Samonto brought back Hindustan in the game in the 33rd minute. Samonto failed to grip Pushpender Kundu’s long free-kick from almost 35 yards. Kushant took advantage of it and tapped the ball into an empty net.
Just when it seemed that Hindustan was back in the match, Farooq scored the second goal to restore Real Kashmir’s lead in the 40th minute. Tariq returned the favour by assisting this time.
David Robertson brought in former Mumbai City FC and ATK forward Nadong Bhutia in the 67th minute in place of Farhan Ganie. The substitution proved to be a tactical masterclass as Bhutia netted the third and the winning goal within a minute. Yao sent a low cross inside the box from the left flank eyeing Bhutia’s run. The cross completely fooled Hindustan players inside the box as Nadong netted the ball into an empty net.
Kushant Chauhan converted a header in the 80th minute to bring back Hindustan into the game but it was not enough as Real Kashmir had the last laugh.
Earlier, Real Kashmir, who topped Group A, grabbed a vital 3-2 win over Ozone, to set up the decider against Hindustan. RKFC, coached by former Leeds United left-back David Robertson, thus became the first Kashmiri club to play in the top flight.
In another game, Ozone FC and TRAU FC played out a 0-0 draw to end their second in the third and fourth place respectively.
All India Football Federation congratulated Real Kashmir FC for clinching the 2017-18 2nd Division League to become the first club from Kashmir to qualify for the I-League.
“Congratulations Real Kashmir FC for becoming the first club from Kashmir to qualify for the I-League. I am sure the achievement will inspire the youth to take up the beautiful game and take our Country to higher echelons of International Football,” AIFF President Praful Patel said in his statement.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said, “The I-League finds a new centre in the next edition and AIFF’s vision of a pan Indian league has further been substantiated. Congratulations and good luck for the next edition.